Thursday, 28 April 2011

Watch this: evidence of the importance of listening to young people

A great new video from the V team at Brook about why it is so important to listen to young people as part of the sex: positive campaign. I really recommend watching it and ask you to tweet it, share it and recommend it.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

DH court ruling on late abortion data

Yesterday the Department of Health lost a court battle challenging an Information Tribunal decision from October 2009 which means that data on late abortions must be disclosed.

This is extremely disappointing and the potential for individual women, particularly young women, and doctors carrying out the procedure to be identified is deeply worrying and unethical.

The link to an article in the Telegraph (which quotes Brook) is here.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Just a kiss

It is when I hear stories about two people of the same sex getting thrown out of a pub for kissing that I realise how vital Brook's sex:positive campaign is.

Now I wasn't there, and I don't know the details but on face value, being thrown out of a pub in the 21st Century for a 'gay kiss' is quite remarkable. Perhaps even more remarkable because this was a pub in Soho in our capital city. And I am delighted there was direct action taken by hundreds on Friday night. Voicing our immediate objections about unfairness, prejudice and social injustice is vital.

And so is taking the long term view - changing our still wonky culture about sex and sexuality is key to enabling young people to grow up able to enjoy their sexuality and safe from harm. This remains one of the most important tasks we face.

Day in, day out at Brook we see young people who are ashamed, worried, embarrassed and confused about sex and sexuality. Young people who want and need adults to help them navigate their way through adolescence and into adulthood. And it makes me both angry and sad that our society is willing to judge and demonise young people: on the one hand chastising them to be more responsible and more moral, yet at the same time denying them the basic information, education, support and access to services that is vital in helping them to manage their lives both now and in the future, and enabling them to make relationship and sexual choices they can both enjoy and take responsibility for.

And that is the basic premise of the campaign - we must all do our bit to ensure that young people grow up in a sex:positive world. A world where they grow up confident in their own skin, equipped with the full range of life skills they need to take control of and responsibility for their choices and only choosing to have sex when they want to, because it is right for them. So are you doing your bit to improve the culture for young people? It doesn't need to cost money - simply speaking out in support of young people, listening to their views about issues, challenging the sensationalist journalism that reports on increasing rates of teenage pregnancies when the opposite is true, challenging the outrage that comes pouring in when skilled professionals are putting the evidence about what works into practise, providing access to information - none of these things costs money.

And if you are committed to the cause and doing your bit, have you pledged to be sex:positive yet? If not, please go to and pledge now. Its free, its easy and its important. We cannot allow another generation of young people to grow up without the education and support they need. It is morally wrong to do so and unless we take an active stand, situations like that reported at the John Snow pub will continue to happen far too frequently. Most of the time we will never hear about it but that doesn't make it any less wrong.

follow us on twitter

Become a friend of brookcharity on facebook

Pledge for the sex:positive campaign

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Recruitment of new trustees

Brook is looking for six trustees who will lead the organisation through an unprecedented time of organisational change.

At Brook we are passionate about young people’s sexual rights and as a trustee you will provide commitment and direction to advance our radical approach to young people’s sexual health.

The specific roles Brook is recruiting are:

Treasurer: to provide financial leadership to the board.

Service users (two vacancies): to ensure the perspective of actual or potential service users on the board.

Lead trustee – clinical governance: to provide leadership on clinical governance and chair the sub committee on clinical excellence.

Lead trustee – safeguarding: to provide leadership on safeguarding and protecting young people, and chair the subcommittee on safeguarding.

Trustee: parliamentary experience - to provide expertise on influencing parliamentarians across the UK.

The commitment equates to between 8 – 12 days a year and the roles are voluntary (with out of pocket expenses paid).

If you are interested in applying you can download further information here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Scout Association - new sex and relationships programme and resource

Today the Scout Association launched a national relationships and sexual health programme, My body, my choice, and published a resource for Scout Leaders plus a handout for young people.

Local leaders will run the programme aimed at Explorer Scouts (aged between 14-18). Brook really welcomes the initiative and the introduction of this type of no nonsense material, and commend the Chief Scout Bear Grylls for being so supportive of this important area.

The resource provides guidance for leaders on how to approach sex and relationships issues, as well as activities and games to help young people to think about various issues.

The material is clear and simple and is exactly the type of information young people tell us they need to help them understand how their bodies work and to help them make informed decisions about these matters.

You can find out more about the resource here.

-------------------------------------------------- Help us create a sex:positive society - pledge your support (free, quick and very easy) at Follow us on twitter @simonablake @brookcharity @BeSexPositive. Facebook - BrookCharity

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Saturday 2nd April 2011 - my big mixed week

Its been both a joyous and a sad week. And a very big and momentous week at Brook. And as a result this morning I was so tired this morning I could hardly stand up. It was the need for breakfast that finally forced me to get out of bed.

Yesterday we launched the new Brook organisation. To make this happen, on Thursday the national office board who owned the Brook licence, brand and trademarks etc, assigned all the rights to the new Brook board and the Brook Network of independently constituted charities became part of one new Brook organisation. Although Brook in Northern Ireland did not join the organisation at this stage discussions continue and all of us remain focused on and committed to meeting the sexual health needs of young people in Northern Ireland with its particular culture around sex and sexuality.

The face of the voluntary and community sector is changing, with unprecedented mergers and collaborations being developed to find creative and thoughtful responses to weather the economic environment and continue delivering services for their users as best as possible. And whilst the economic environment is important and there will be financial benefits in our new structure, Brook's change was based on our strategic requirements following the publication of our strategy over two years ago. A proactive rather than reactive move. And I am sure it is absolutely the right one.

The strategy set out an ambitious goal to double the numbers of young people we reach each year. This change in our organisational design and governance structure will enable us to better achieve this goal. And the discussions and work that got us to April 1st have been robust, challenging and enormous. I am immensely proud to have been part of the process and thank everyone - trustees, staff, consultants, lawyers, supporters for making this incredible journey happen. I particularly want to thank the outgoing national trustees who have been there from the beginning and whose vision, boldness, support and challenge has been truly remarkable. They have been a pleasure to work for and with since I started at Brook in 2006. I will miss them enormously.

And now the real work starts - I keep reminding myself that this is the starting line, not the finishing line! The interim senior management team meets on Monday and Tuesday to identify how we will work effectively together, and establish our priorities for the year. The interim team led by me brings together a mix of existing Centre Directors, national office senior staff and someone new to the organisation which is a heady mix that is absolutely right for the transitional year.

The second phase of trustee recruitment has already begun. We are looking for six new trustees to join an already strong board. We are looking for a 2 service users, a treasurer, as well trustees with expertise in safeguarding, clinical leadership and parliamentary and policy. Further details will be on the website next week. Do look if you are interested. Recruitment also starts for the permanent CEO later this month with the aim being to get the permanent CEO in post from October 2011.

Thursday was also a sad day: like many other organisations across the country we closed the doors on services for the last time. For us it was our service in Stockton. Young people are now expected to use all age services with a new provider. I cannot believe young people will not lose out under the new arrangements. Whilst I do not agree with the rationale to close specialist services for young people and I don't believe it will generate the savings Stockton is looking for, I sincerely hope the new services provided by sexual health Teeside will be used by young people, particularly the most vulnerable, and that the hard work that has gone into reducing teenage pregnancy rates which remained stubbornly high until the last couple of years, will not be undone. I will watch closely with interest.

I went to the Stockton team's closing party on Wednesday night, and despite the uncertainty for many of them about their individual futures, I was impressed and humbled by their spirit, solidarity and continued commitment to young people in Stockton and to Brook. In the face of difficult cuts, it can be hard to focus on the successes of the service and what has been achieved for young people over the last four years since it opened. The closure was particularly poignant for me as it was the first new service that opened under 'my watch'. Of course it had all the normal bumps along the way, and some more. And through the dogged determination of staff Brook Stockton we had quickly become a respected provider of services and an expert in young people's sexual health. It is ironic and sad that it is closing down when it had really started to fly and make a difference.

I have just had a call from my father whilst I was typing this blog. When I was at Uni in the early 90s I was tipped off about some shares to buy. As far as we knew I had wasted the £100 which I had scraped together from an overdraft, but a letter has arrived and it looks like I may have made 500% on them. A pleasant surprise.

So, tonight I look forward to seeing my partner. It is fair to say I have been absent from home both mentally and physically for the last month or so, and I look forward to spending some proper time catching up on our tales.